The IKEA Experience

Did you know that IKEA is responsible for 75% of break ups among couples in their 20s?

I made that up. But should that turn out to be true I wouldn’t be the first person to not be surprised.
Before you decide to make an IKEA trip, stop and ask yourself:

What’s more important… My relationship… or a tiny couch from a furniture store with pretty good meatballs?

It was a week away from moving day when my boyfriend (and soon-to-be roommate) and I decided a rainy Saturday would be the perfect time to collect everything we needed.

We had a long list of places to go so we figured we’d start close and work our way out. Having just gotten a Costco Card (the most exciting piece of identification since my fake ID in college) we headed south for the Costco in Venice Beach.

The picture on my card was taken only one day after I had my wisdom teeth pulled so my cheeks take up a majority of that ½ inch black and white photo, but the kind greeter who checked my card looked at me with that knowing former-chubby-girl smile and waved us in to join the crowds.

When we first entered, we paused to ask the question on everyone’s mind: If you were given a cart and 5 minutes to collect as much as you could, what would you grab?

Logical as always my boyfriend’s answer was to stack the TVs, load all the diamonds and take the cardboard print outs of American Express gift cards to the cashier. My answer was to sprint down every isle, one hand pushing the cart and one hand out stretched knocking everything in, hollering like Tarzan pausing only for the free samples.

After pulling my boyfriend away from one of those giant TVs with a 3D glasses display, where millions of Americans are likely to have contracted pink eye, we started in on the home isles.

We spent half an hour loading up every random item we convinced ourselves we needed then finally came to a halt. We assessed the loot and one by one started taking out the ridiculous items until we came up empty and ditched the cart.

With this inspiring idea of all the fun without spending a dime, we decided we were brilliant and should do test runs at every store to compare prices and merchandise before making any purchases.

Next stop IKEA!

Now, I’m a seasoned IKEA shopper but in all of my boyfriend’s 28 years of life he had never stepped foot into the big blue cave of wonder.

For those of you traveling with the inexperienced, here is what you might have to look forward to, if your experience is anything like mine:

Walking through the automatic double doors the two of you may feel excited and empowered, like all these little mock rooms are yours for the choosing!

You’ll rip off a paper measuring tape and run about the store pretending to know how long this wall is and how tall that one is. You’ll probably jot down a bunch of Swedish words you can’t pronounce, sit on every couch, and play house in the kitchens even though neither of you can cook so the pantomiming is a little confusing for spectators.

The fun can continue as long as you like. But remember folks, this isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon.

Towards the end of the mattress section the two of you may grow a little weary. You may start to have trouble following the giant arrows on the floor and get confused when you make a wrong turn and wind up where you’ve already been.

You can reassure your boyfriend that if you can just make it through the dreaded Kid’s section there’s a light at the end of the tunnel… but you’ll secretly know it’s just the lamp section and there’s still a long long way to go.

My mother once warned me she saw a women changing a diaper on an IKEA display changing table. Still, knowing things like this will never really prepare you for what goes on in there.

Cover your eyes, plug your nose, hold hands and fight the urge to gag… it’ll be over soon.

When you finally emerge, beat and mysteriously sticky, you’ll see the arrows pointing down to the Marketplace and you can tell your boyfriend you’re almost home free. He may still start to complain about the lack of windows, exits, fresh air and struggle to understand which direction just means OUT. Stay the course and dodge his questions.

You’ll watch him go from the manly fix-it-man, ready to hammer and build you a living room to a 5 year old late for nap time, moaning and wining he wants to go home.

At this point, his eyes have glazed over, rugs are irrelevant and he may use his last bit of strength to start speed walking past everything. He’ll start knocking into carts and people with his body and pushing small children out of his way by their heads, desperately keeping his focus from one arrow to the next.

When he suddenly hits the lamps section he may become disoriented, blinded by bright lights in every direction he turns. You might be laughing hysterically ten yards back as he struggles to make his way through, looking like a mouse in a maze, hopelessly ping-ponging from wall to wall.

You’ll have the opportunity to catch up  when/if he reaches the pillow section…. If things get really bad you may even find him quietly sobbing into a plastic cover or whispering to himself about the needing to get out of here.

After a few pats on the back and a white lie that it’s right around the corner, he may take off running with a renewed sense of hope, and while you might try to keep up with him, his motivated legs will probably carry him through that jungle of plastic plants faster than your laughing will allow you to.

If you get lucky, he might politely wait for you at the beginning of the warehouse, antsy and itching to run again. But the second he sees you’re okay he’ll leave you in the dust and make a run for the food source past the check out lines.

This time when you find him, he’ll probably be sad, pale and standing in a crowd of people with plates full of pizza and cinnamon rolls. He’ll look down at you with big basset hound eyes and a shaky bottom lip, tell you he needs ice cream and beg you to do something about the line being so long. It won’t be pretty.

Learn from my mistakes and do the following:

- Feed your boyfriend first.

- Explain to him what going into IKEA will be like and make sure he understands he won’t be seeing daylight for some time.

- Make a short list of things you’re looking for. Without one you’ll suffer from over exposure and risk a panic attack.

- Avoid doing two warehouse stores in one day. Unless you’re trained suburbanites who have built up the stamina.

- And bring something sugary in your purse. When he starts to get cranky, give him a juice box or maybe even some candy.


Just before my boyfriend reached for a soggy, cold meatball rolling on the ground, the crowds parted and he spotted a real live exit. He bolted out into the rain and thanked God he was free at last.

We walked straight across the way to a Mexican restaurant, ordered margaritas and heckled the happy couples walking towards their doom.

A week later we went back to IKEA. I fed my boyfriend pizza, ice cream and Swedish pear soda that was 99.9% sugar. We buzzed through in 20 minutes, left empty handed again and made our first living together rule: Never EVER enter a fucking IKEA again.